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Pension funds call for changes to negate effects of QE

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has called for a series of changes that will help pension funds offset some of the damage done by the government’s £375bn quantitative easing (QE) programme.

The NAPF has argued that nearly half of the £229bn deficit currently being carried by 6,432 final-salary schemes had been due to QE.

QE was designed to pump money into the ailing UK economy, through the purchase of government bonds currently in issue. However, this acted to push up their prices, while reducing their yields.

Pension funds have then had to compensate for lower returns from bonds by inflating estimates for the amount of assets the schemes need to hold in order to meet future pension payments.

NAPF's chairman, Mark Hyde Harrison, argued that the UK should follow the lead of other countries around the world by relaxing pension scheme rules.

"Discount rates [the long term return on investments] are being calculated on artificially depressed gilt yields, and those false foundations are putting a lot of stress on businesses trying to keep a final salary pension going," he said.

"The authorities need to say to those running pension schemes that it's OK for a higher rate to be used, at least until things return to some normality.
"Letting pension funds raise the discount rate ceiling could make a huge difference - wiping over £20bn off their deficits," he added.

However, the Pensions Regulator has argued that there is already enough flexibility within the schemes.

"Our recent analysis and engagement with industry specialists has confirmed that there's no need for schemes to make significant adjustments to assumptions to achieve a sustainable recovery plan," a spokesman for the regulator said.

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